Zim securocrats mull CSOs crackdown
HARARE – Following last week’s protests which rocked the country, from the prison riots, University demonstrations to opposition MDC-T youths protesting, Zimbabwe securocrats are mulling a crackdown on the civil society organisations (CSOs) which they claim are behind the unrest, Nehanda Radio has learnt.
Security sources said meetings were underway since the demonstrations by the MDC-T youths demanding the immediate release of abducted activist Itai Dzamara.
“A series of meetings have been taking place and it has been agreed that the civil society organisations in the country are becoming a security threat hence the need to crack them down,” the source said.
“A number of organisations have been put on serious surveillance, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition leading the list,” said the source.
Plans to crackdown on the civil society organisations come at a time when local non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and media groups have said they are unruffled by revelations that the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO), together with the South African intelligence, are spying on their activities.
The spying project was revealed in South African espionage secrets leaked to the Doha-headquartered global news network Al-Jazeera, and British newspaper The Guardian early this month. The snoop, it was further revealed, was targeting “rogue” NGOs and “subversive” media.
Zimbabwe Democracy Institute director Pedzisai Ruhanya said what the NGOs and civil society organisations are doing is constitutional.
“Protests and acts of lawful civil disobedience are democratic and provided for in the Constitution. Such lawful activities if any should not worry a lawful and legitimate government,” Ruhanya said.
“Citizens have democratic and constitutional rights to exercise their civil liberties among them protests. The state security agents should not criminalize such activities,” he said.
Another political analyst, Maxwell Saungweme said it is not a new thing for civil society groups to push for protests.
“If CSOs are pushing for protests, that is well within their expected functions. I wonder why CIOs are surprised,” Saungweme said.
“For starters CSOs have three main functions, to advocate for people rights (be voices of the voiceless), to monitor the government of the day and be a watchdog; and to provide services where government and commercial sector programmes fall short.”
“By planning protests, if that is true, CSOs will just be playing their role and fulfilling their main function of advocating for people’s rights and speaking on behalf of those without a voice,” he said.
Saungweme also said if anything Zimbabwe’s CSOs are far too late on the issue of protests.
“Given the state of affairs where the economy is drying, the government is becoming more and more unaccountable by the day, activists are being abducted, people’s rights including those of prisoners are being trampled upon and people are suffering at the hands of a regime that has no clue about how to get the country out of the current quagmire, CSOs should indeed organise protests- they should in fact have started nationwide protests long back.”
In its Central committee report to the 6th people’s congress, Zanu PF stated that the MDC-T, CSOs and NGOs remain a threat to both its rule and national security.
During the build up to the 2013 general elections Zimbabwe police vowed to pursue a crackdown on civil society organisations, saying some Western-backed groups posed a “serious security threat”.
Police raided leading human and political rights non-governmental organisations in what activists said was calculated harassment ahead of a constitutional referendum.